Either you are for us or against us: Pathways to the Common Core

In Heinemann’s Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman, the first chapter states that we can read the Core as a “curmudgeon” or we can read them as if they are gold.

In other words, there are only two choices here.  Oh, my, how that premise makes me angry.  Let’s see, what does it remind me of…

I choose, instead, to read the Core as I teach my students to read: as an argument.  With an argument, there is what is on the page, what is off the page, and what is in the context.

I do agree there is gold in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  I love them as a framework, and I agree most heartily that we must all raise our expectations for students.

My worry, though, is  the CCSS are not true gold.  In fact, they are only gilded, and a potential gilded Trojan horse at that.

Lucy Calkins and group employ effective argument skills when, starting on page 3, they address critics’ arguments against the CCSS.  They acknowledge the argument that we should be talking about poverty, citing that the US child poverty rate went from 16% in 2000 to 21% in 2009.  They note the initial mystery of the Common Core authors and ratification process.  They note the expense of this process.

But they don’t debunk the arguments.  They don’t address them or counter them.  They simply acknowledge them on the page.

Let’s take a look at what is not on the page. 

They didn’t mention the 8-10 hours this test will take, as recently published in Education Week.  They didn’t talk about the centralized data base or the Brooking’s Institution Report that found that standards won’t influence NAEP scores.

They didn’t mention the loss of singing time that makes time for vocabulary work, as written in the Washington Post by Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York and the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.  They didn’t mention the stress on students, including  kindergarteners facing a loss of playtime as posted in the New York Post.

They didn’t mention the questions of developmental appropriateness as written in the Huffington Post by Mark Rice, professor and chair of the Department of American Studies, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.  And they didn’t question if the CCSS advocate a “one right answer” approach,  such as found in this post by Vicki Vinton, author and New York literacy consultant.

And they didn’t address teacher concerns, such as this post by Colette Marie Bennett, the English Department Chair at Wamogo High School in Northwest Connecticut, where she wonders about the time demands indicated in these close readings and how we will keep kids interested for that long.

And they sure didn’t address Susan Ohanian’s questions about the research and ratification.

And so while the Calkins group present a false choice of reading the Standards as a curmudgeon or seeing the Standards as gold, I will continue to see the Standards as an argument, questioning them, but still addressing and implementing them, and working to do so always with my full integrity and expertise, because in the end, it is  experience and heart that is gold.

PS.  As I tweeted this post, the next Tweet was a post from Diane Ravitch’s blog, which also notes that the hostile relationship between states and teachers/lack of funding complicate implementation.

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